To do, or not to do, is that even a question? As you get off at Euston the euphoria of a 2hr super speed journey from Lime Street is slowly stampeded to a halt en-route endless escalators, amidst unforgiving commuters; you could be forgiven for turning back and saying “sack this for a game of conkers!”. But don’t be too downbeat because obviously there is light at the end of them tunnels. Once you have negotiated the tube for the first time, and barged and fought your way through yet more graceless undead, your foremost questions are no longer: which part of london are we hitting tonight? or What flamboyant number should I be showcasing? but I want to get to my digs and wash the 2mm of tube dust off my skin, will it stay in my lungs forever? Don’t be disheartened blood brothers and sisters there is much to do about London besides inhaling smog, underground mayhem and madcap mayors. Here’s my quick-fix guide to enjoying your time in the smoke, whilst trying to put pay to 5 northern myths.
1. East London is the only place to be
No No No! It’s not where you are, it’s where you’re at.
A more than adequate time can be had swanning from Shoreditch, Hoxton to Hackney, amidst its scenester epidemic, but if you prefer banter over dodging fold up bicycles, and bars full of colourful characters rather than posturing clones dressed colourfully then you will be getting much more joy and originality for your money exploring the other 3 dials.
For instance Brixton and its neighbours in the South (Vauxhall/Stockwell) are thriving, with bouncing markets fueled by vibrant music and an abundance of ‘worldly’ street food. Head North across the river and there’s Camden which, no matter how many tourists flock there, never ceases to maintain a time honored sense of rebellion while taking it up a level to compete with the more affluent areas in the city. In between you can pop into Angel which is heaving with youthful exuberance, seemingly benefitting from the overspill and the overkill of Dalston, with its accessibility to a heady mix of old boozers, buzzing bars and an excitingly eclectic choice of eateries. If its a more refined time you’re after, you can head west through the buzzing streets and hidden gems of Portobello through Notting Hill towards leafier sections of the Thames, from Hammersmith out to Richmond you can sample old England seemingly at its finest with sprawling walks and stunning scenery to keep you occupied between bars and restaurants in prime preening locations.
2. Clubbing in london aint all that
In all honesty there’s something to cater to everyone, from the fashionably obvious ‘Pacha’ ‘MOS’ ‘Egg’ and ‘Fabric’ to the old skool style raves ‘Cable’ and ‘Great suffolk street warehouse’ as well as more playful alternatives such as new club night ‘Cock Tropicana @ Dalston Superstore’ or the star studded Kensington-meets-Ibiza rooftop pad, ‘Love Brunch’- providing the sun is shining of course. Either/or there is certainly more than one good reason to dig out them glowsticks.
3. Shopping in that London’s dead expensive like
Around London you’ll see all sorts of individual and sometimes strangely dressed folk, and as you can imagine the Vintage markets are thriving, from East to West – Portebello to Spitalfields- Retro fans will be able to spend hours browsing and parting with your well earned cash, bargains are to be had, and if this is what you are looking for be sure to check out www.Rokit.co.uk who have four stores in London and will service any fadding fashion needs. If sauntering in somebody elses Grandad’s dungarees ain’t your thing, surprising though it may seem, designer goods can be snapped up on the cheap with the continuous one-upmanship sale strategy of London’s flagship stores- and there are bargains aplenty. Between the Westfields’, Oxford/Regent Streets and Kings Road, whether It’s Burberry, Victoria’s Secret or Louis Vuitton or your more affordable high street wares, London is actually, implausibly – where more is less.
4. Parks and recreation
If your initial perception of London parks isn’t one of climbing frames, seats on springs and rubber flooring, then you’re spot on. It seems London takes great pride (as it should) in its smattering of greenbelt and foliage. You may, as I did, be wary of finding yourself walking through a Jog-on-a thon, and yes people seem to like to Jog around parks so there is more than a few plodding round, but what surprised me was the sheer size and scale of these places. Ok so there’s Hyde park where maybe you’ll catch a concert or go to Speakers Corner and listen to the seemingly insane trying to explain everything from Islam to growing beans in a kettle. You can then take a nice stroll besides the Serpentine, have a swim if you fancy it, or put your feet up at one of the many vendors, take it all in and probably pay £8 for a Fanta and a scone (best take a picnic). Clapham Common and Hampstead Heath seem to roll boundlessly within the City skyline, with crowds of people socialising, playing sports and being merry. If you like a bit of the great outdoors then head to Richmond Park, or Deer Park as it’s known to locals (at least one anyway, or maybe when i asked he had just started writing a letter to his Korean pen-pal). The largest of London’s 8 royal parks, ‘Deer Park’ has got a bit of something for everybody, with flower plantations that would make even Regents Park and its floral refinery blush, to swimming, and theres even a golf course! Go with friends or the family and explore the forest and its lake amongst the wildlife (mostly Deer) for a very different London experience.
5. You can’t get a proper sausage dinner in that there London
Very true. When in London you’ll do best to eat out, you’re on holiday after all, and when it comes to fast food theres some fantastic alternatives to that clownburger place. I personally find it very annoying after ordering my deconstructed dinner getting home, wading through mountains of wrapping paper and leaking tubs only to discover its tasteless stodge, if you do fancy a chip shop dinner (and ive gone up a couple of notches researching this) then look no further than my tried and tested top 3. www.goldenunion.co.uk www.toffsfish.co.uk www.fishcentral.co.uk
If you want something a little different as mentioned there’s great street food in the markets Day and Night, and various cheap and cheerful and more importantly delicious Independant cafes and pocket sized restaurants, whether you’re after Vegan or Vietnamese, Bagels, Burgers or Burritos its all out there and probably just a couple of streets behind that big yellow neon M.